SCHOOLS SHUT FROM NOV 9 TO 11 DUE TO SMOG RELATED ACCIDENTS; DOCS SAY IT IS A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY  

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Aditi Goel, The Hush Post Team

Ludhiana: It’s an emergency and accepted by the government now, but from a different measure. Due to heavy smog, a mix of smoke and fog, government schools and private aided recognised schools have been asked to close down in Punjab from November 9 to November 11. While the government has treated this as an emergency due to rise in the number of accidents in the early morning hours due to dense fog, doctors say it is a bigger emergency from the health point of view. The Central Pollution Control Board says that the Air Quality Index of Ludhiana reading has in the recent past hit 351, which is seven times more than what is healthy. The AQI for Mandi Gobindgarh is 349 and for Amritsar it is 319, way above what is considered safe.

This is a NASA image showing both states of Punjab, in India and Pakistan. The red spots are the areas where farmers burn paddy stubble.

Concerned about the rise in respiratory problems, Dr. Gurmeet Kaur, a paediatrician at CMCH, Ludhiana said, “Crackers, unchecked stubble burning and changing climate has resulted in haziness and increased suspended particulate matter in the air. Ground level ozone, which is a colourless gas and has two primary pollutants coupled with emission of harmful chemicals like sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are responsible for the harmful effects on breathing and respiration.”
Senior citizens, children are the worst hit due to smog and a significant number of first time patients are showing up at the hospitals, she said.

A dense fog in the vicinity of Ludhiana. The visibility was not more than five metres.

“There are no less patients this year compared to last year coming with respiratory problems. In fact, this time round we are witnessing first-timers too, who are complaining of breathing issues due to adverse climate”, said Dr. Amit Gupta, consultant Pulmonary Medicines department, Fortis Hospital, Ludhiana.
The Indian Meteorological department has predicted that the weather is likely going to be dry in the state in the next 48 hours, which contributes to the smoggy weather.
The suspended particulate matter started setting in after Diwali. This alongside stubble burning has made matters worse in Punjab but more particularly in Ludhiana and Amritsar. Ludhiana is pressing the emergency button, since there is a lot of industrial pollution and due to the farms surrounding the city, pollution level has gone up considerably.

Symptoms:

Constant cough and cold, difficulty in breathing, watery eyes and irritation, skin rashes and itching, and other skin related allergies, viral fever in few cases,
pneumonia in children and young age group.
Asthma patients may experience smoke inhalation injury and even respiratory failure.

Treatment

For asthmatic patients – bronchodilators are commonly used in treatment and control of asthma patients. There can be rescue medication for short bronchodilators while long ones are used to control asthma along with inhaled steroid. Timely preventive measures can help asthma patients to avoid trigger.